I am writing in response to the letter Discovery disappoints with their prescription, published in the 27 March issue of The Village News.
On several of its options, Discovery Health Medical Scheme requires that members use certain network pharmacies to ensure full cover for their chronic medicines. This is done in the best interests of members, since it allows us to reduce dispensing fees and to eliminate or reduce out of pocket co-payments that members would otherwise have to pay. Pharmacies in the network offer members information about affordable, formulary and generic alternatives, which further assists in saving costs.
Together, these aspects of the pharmacy network save money for the affected members and for the medical scheme as a whole. It is vital to note that medical schemes are not-for-profit entities, and are owned by their members. This means that any savings benefit the collective membership of the scheme, and no-one else.
The network also offers members a variety of choices in how they obtain their chronic medicine. These include:
- Having the medicine delivered at no additional cost anywhere in South Africa
- Pre-ordering and collecting the medicine from participating pharmacies
- Walking in at any participating pharmacy to fill your prescription
- Re-ordering medicine in minutes on our app or website
We realise that in implementing a network strategy, there may be negative impacts on smaller local pharmacies. To avoid this, we have ensured that the preferred pharmacy network is broad and inclusive. This means that any registered pharmacy that meets the participation criteria can join. Currently, this nationwide network includes more than 1 800 retail pharmacies and is made up of independent community pharmacies as well as the larger chain pharmacies such as Dis-Chem, Clicks, Medi-Rite and Pick n Pay.
I hope this clarifies why the Scheme requires members on certain options to use network providers, and that this arrangement should have no negative impact on local pharmacies and a very positive impact for our members.